Map of Highway 89
Yarnell Hill tends to evoke a love/hate relationship as the road’s ribbonous curves climb from desert to chaparral.
Highway 89 Yarnell Hill
U.S. Highway 89 was Arizona’s first state highway from Nogales to Less Ferry at the Colorado River. Yarnell Hill changes 2500 feet in four miles along the side of Table Top Mountain. An overlook about a mile from the top offers views of the valley below.
Parker Dairy Farm in the valley
This section of Highway 89 has been called the most treacherous drive in Arizona. Motorcyclists love it, although many accidents occur. Big rigs, like semis and RVs avoid it. At least I do, once each way towing was enough for me. Yet I love to drive this curvacious piece of highway.
Landslide on Yarnell Hill 1932
Couldn’t find an exact date for the first highway, but know it was an unpaved narrow two lanes. In late 1914, the drivers of the last Los Angeles to Phoenix Cactus Derby race drove down the precipitous slope during a torrential rainstorm describing Yarnell Hill as the most challenging drive ever made.
White Elephant curve
About half way down Yarnell Hill there is a white elephant painted on the rocks, when someone hasn’t vandalized it. The bend could be compared to an elephant’s trunk. There is mostly mystery surrounding this apparition involving many stories told by folks who are “right” in their own truths. The Arizona Highway Department calls it “graffiti” and occasionally tries to paint it over but unknown persons paint it back.
At the top of the hill lies Yarnell, current population less than 2,000, “Where The Desert Breeze Meets The Mountain Air!” For many years Yarnell has offered respite for both automobiles and their occupants. Passengers, thirsty and exhausted by the climb, were as dry as their cars’ radiators. However since the Black Canyon Highway, known as Interstate-17, rerouted much traffic further east Yarnell has slipped into a quiet little berg. Yet there are some nice restaurants, antique stores and art galleries.
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